There’s a quite hush around the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal prepare for the unfamiliar territory of Thursday night football in the Europa League. Having failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s reign, this European season will be a huge test of Arsenal’s credentials.
Arguably the biggest club in the competition alongside the Italian Milan, at least with the highest coefficient, all eyes are on the Gunners to prove they are too good for Europe’s second-biggest title. Will the North London side be lifting the trophy come the end of the season?
Arsenal’s failings in Europe?
It’s not been entertaining for Arsenal fans in Europe as of recent times as they have been knocked out at the Last 16 stage for six consecutive seasons in a row, often by humiliating defeats to Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Yet now, in a competition bereft of any European giants, will Arsenal have what it takes to go all the way?
All eyes will be on Arsenal’s star-studded midfield as the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka lead the way in securing possession and exploiting defences. Much can be said about the middle of the park at the Emirates as the Gunners boast a midfield capable of rivalling the very best. With such depth including the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin, Arsenal have decent back up too.
It will however, be on German star Ozil to propel his side to a trophy triumph. The 28-year-old has faced heavy criticism from many pundits, especially as he has failed to perform on a number of big occasions. However, the spotlight will continue to be on the World Cup winner as he needs to prove himself in Europe, and especially in the Europa League.
The right kind of style
Arsenal’s playing style is considered very easy on the eye and although it may not work domestically in the Premier League, it is one that is often adopted on the European stage. Many teams play with a lot of players in the middle, keeping possession well and using slick passing moves to open up the opponent.
Arsene Wenger has instilled this very method in the team since day one and with their fast and attacking wingers such as Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck joining in, there should be more than enough supply for the main man up front. And this year’s summer signing Alexandre Lacazette may be focal in providing the missing edge for Arsenal. Not to mention fellow Frenchman Olivier Giroud who has recently stated how the squad are determined to triumph.
“We are very focused on this Europa League, we want to go and win it, we are very ambitious”, said Giroud. As the new three-at-the-back formation allows five in midfield, Arsenal may have the winning formula for European success. Whether this pays off or not remains to be seen.
With Cologne their first target of the competition, Arsenal must surely ease through their group stage consisting of the German side, Belarusian minnows BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade. The Gunners have lifted 3 FA Cups in the past 4 seasons but adding a major European trophy would be a pinnacle for some of these players out there now. It is very much possible for these sets of players to dominate proceedings and breeze through the competition. But will they be successful? Onto Thursday to find out.